Thursday, July 01, 2010

Public's Right to Free Access to Court Decisions

From Nash v. Lathrop, 142 Mass. 29 (1886):

"The decisions and opinions of the justices are the authorized expositions and interpretations of the laws which are binding upon all the citizens. They declare the unwritten law, and construe and declare the meaning of the statutes. Every citizen is presumed to know the law thus declared, and it needs no argument to show that justice requires that all should have free access to the opinions, and that it is against sound public policy to prevent this, or to suppress and keep from the earliest knowledge of the public the statutes or the decisions and opinions of the justices. Such opinions stand, upon principle, on substantially the same footing as the statutes enacted by the Legislature.

"It can hardly be contended that it would be within the constitutional power of the Legislature to enact that the statutes and opinions should not be made known to the public. It is its duty to provide for promulgating them..."